Shivani Hegde’s savvy ensured that Maggi noodles were one of Nestle India’s most resounding marketing successes following its launch in the early 1980s. Now, as it faces an existential crisis over a health scare, she has been called back from Sri Lanka temporarily to help stem the damage, reports Economics Times
Shivani, who took over as head of Nestle in the island nation four months ago and is a member of the parent company’s global marketing leadership council, has pitched camp in India to help with the rescue mission.
A Nestle veteran of three decades, she shifted the advertising angle from taste to health and widened distribution. This made Maggi available even the remote corners of the country, leading to a 70 per cent-plus share of the noodle market.
The economics graduate and master’s degree holder from the Faculty of Management Studies in the capital has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Indian market. A top executive of a food company, who knows her closely, said:
“She made Maggi a household name and brought in a bottom-of-the pyramid connect to the brand without alienating upmarket consumers —that’s been her X factor. But she remains extremely low-profile in the public space and somewhat risk averse.”
Now in her early 50s and frontman of the damage control team, Shivani is expected to meet government officials and regulators along with the parent company’s executives. She will be looking to overhaul consumer engagement in print, television and social media.
Emmanuel Upputuru, who worked with the Maggi team along with Shivani, and helped create the ‘Mein aur meri Maggi’ campaign, said:
“She is precise about what she wants. She would communicate exactly what she wanted in very few word. She’s very correct, treated Maggi as her baby and the entire system looked up to her,”
In one of her rare interviews five years ago, Shivani said:
“Maggi has worked hard to create and grow the market in the past 25 years, and what it has achieved is not easy — it’s a tough job. The connect with the consumer is a very strong asset that is not easy to replicate.”
This helps in explaining why Bulcke and Nestle India CEO Etienne Benet needed to bring her back for this operation.